In my experience, insufficient dietary protein is surprisingly common, especially amongst picky eaters. The one thing that a swing towards processed foods has done, is dramatically reduced the amount of protein many kids (and some adults) consume. You see most processed, convenience foods are generally a combination of fat and carbohydrate (breads, breakfast cereals, crackers, muesli bars, pasta and noodles). Anything with a shelf life is generally protein deficient.
A vicious circle
It’s a bit of a vicious circle because kids who are lacking protein also often reject eating it, preferring high energy foods like refined, simple carbohydrate. They may also have also have a poor appetite for ‘meals’ and often just want to snack throughout the day. Poor variety is also another issue, where they may eat protein, but only from one source e.g.; dairy is common. To make matters worse, I’ve also found these kids are often also deficient in a number of key nutrients (found in good amounts in, you guessed it protein rich foods). These micronutrients not only support their health, but help to build a robust appetite for other good foods (like veggies).
Why do we need protein anyway?
We all need protein to build new cells and repair tissue. As kids are growing (often rapidly) it is especially critical that they are consuming adequate amounts. Protein is used extensively by every body, everyday. Protein is used to make digestive enzymes, to repair the digestive tract, to make antibodies to fight infection, to grow skin, hair, nails, to make blood cells, for strong bones, to build muscle, to make hormones, to stabilise our blood sugar….I could go on forever really.
We cannot store protein, so it’s safe to say, that in order to replace, rebuild and repair, we need to consume protein very regularly.
Signs of protein deficiency
In our society, it is rare to see frank protein deficiency. However, in my experience, subclinical signs are increasingly common, especially in picky eaters. These include:
- poor immune responses (getting sick frequently or difficulty recovering from illness)
- poor appetite or very picky (or more of a snacker, craving simple carbohydrates)
- poor concentration and trouble learning
- moodiness and mood swings
- poor sleep patterns
- muscular weakness, aches and pains
- poor growth and development (failure to thrive)
- skin problems
- delayed wound healing
Breakfast protein is SO very important
Breakfast is a meal where protein is most critical, but is often lacking the most. No matter the claims, it’s a stretch to find anything in the supermarket isles that’s nutritionally adequate for breakfast. Not only that, but most exceed the World Health Organisations recommended daily intake for sugar in one foul swoop.
A couple of years ago, I was a parent helper in my sons class each week. One week, I noticed he was unable to focus, yawning and fidgeting a lot, grumpy and just out of sorts, not the boy I knew. I had a think about what he’d had for breakfast and I realised that though he’d eaten a lot (quantity wise), it wasn’t particularly protein rich (whole grain sourdough and a big fruit smoothie). So I did a little experiment the next few months, alternating between a very protein rich breakfast and one light on protein (on the days I helped out). The result was very clear to me just how essential breakfast protein was for his ability to focus and learn.
Studies support the importance of breakfast protein too showing repeatedly that children who don’t have enough breakfast protein, are prone to sleep, behavioural and learning disorders. For more information about the importance of dietary protein and lots of ways to include it in your diet, click here.
As you know, I’m a huge advocate of persisting to teach kids to love eating a good variety of whole foods – first and foremost. If you’ve followed my work, you’ll see I’m constantly sharing tips and strategies to help you to raise real food loving kids. However, just as medicine is required occasionally for illness, supplementation is often critical in restoring the appetite and desire for whole foods, especially in picky eaters.
Protein supplementation is also often required for people who suffer chronic illness, are athletes or suffering with food intolerance which restricts their protein intake (egg, nut, dairy allergies for example).
It is also very helpful for those mornings that go pear-shaped and a sustaining brekkie is required quickly. As much as I’d like to serve a nutritionally balanced, high protein brekkie each and every morning, some days time is just stretched (like when my kids have a 5am swim squad and we are up at 4.30am) and a protein powder supplement is invaluable.
The vast world of protein powders
Navigating the many types of protein powders available is tricky business. Many brands are derived from feed-lot, grain-fed cows (also often fed GMO’s), highly processed soy proteins and contain franken-sugars, fructose, maltodextrin starches (aggravate blood sugars and the GIT), additives and more yuk ingredients.
Most also contain absolutely no plant fibre, good fats or micronutrients (vitamins and mineral) so nutritionally they are incomplete and not at all reflective of a well rounded, whole food meal. Thankfully, there are a select few which offer balanced nutrition and do what we need them to do – provide a sustaining, nutritious supplement, and here’s the clincher, that actually tastes good. It’s just got to taste good right?
My preferred choice –180 Nutrition protein powder (and a special offer to try before you buy)
I have decided to partner with 180 Nutrition as a product that ticks all of my tough to tick boxes. I love that they have vegan AND grass fed whey protein options (to suit everybody) and that they couple their proteins with nourishing whole food to make it nutritionally complete (so much more than just protein). I’m a fan of their ethos in general and they’re an Aussie company that I know and trust.
Their 180 Protein Superfoods are a simple, balanced blend of clean, Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate (or Pea Protein Isolate in there vegan range), Flaxseed, Almonds, Sunflower Kernels, Shredded Coconut, Coconut Flour, Cocoa (Chocolate flavour only), Chia Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Psyllium Husks, Stevia. Ss this protein powder contains loads of essential minerals and B vitamins from plant sources for stable energy and mood, healthy fats and plant based fibre. They are also super low in sugar (and fructose-friendly) so they will keep you full for longer, without a mid morning blood sugar crisis.
Adding a serve to my sons previously mentioned breakfast made all the difference to his focus and mood, whilst still a quick and convenient meal for ‘those days’ when cooking eggs is out of the question.
Now for a special offer – you get to try 180 Nutrition Protein Powders for FREE
Click HERE to get:
- 4 x Free Serves of the 180 Superfood Protein Blend (2 serves of each flavour – Coconut & Chocolate) So that’s 2 x 80g packs as pictured below.
- All we ask is you cover a small shipping and handling fee.
- This is a limited offer until we run out of samples! So be sure to get your free samples today!
- Offer is for Australian residents only.
Click HERE to try them out for yourselves. 180 Nutrition is such a great thing to have in your pantry for those days you need a fast, good quality breakfast or a sustaining snack.
180 Nutrition can be mixed into any smoothie you like really. This is a delicious, super simple recipe that we often have for breakfast or a for after school pre-sport snack (I pop it in a thermos to keep it nice and cold)…
Black Forrest Breakfast Smoothie
Simply blend together:
- 100 g 180 Nutrition Superfood Protein Blend (note 50g = 1 serve)
- 250 ml milk (1 cup) of your choice (cow, additive-free coconut or nut milk)
- 120 ml full-fat natural yoghurt (½ cup)
- 100 g frozen raspberries (1 cup) or cherries
- 1 tbsp cacao - unsweetened Dutch process or raw
- Blend all of the ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor until smooth and icy. Thermomix 30 seconds speed 7.